5 min read

Does size matter in ecommerce? (list hygiene)

Written by Andriy Boychuk
5 min read

One of the most common questions exchanged between online entrepreneurs is “How big is your list” or “How many subscribers you have.” The bigger the number the “cooler” you sound, because more subscribers are better. Is this true? No, it is not. This is like if business owners were bragging about their revenue. Revenue is a gross number before expenses. If you make $1mm in revenue and your expenses are $1mm, you’re breaking even with your business which is not a good sign. The same thing is true for list size. Your list is not as important as the number of engaged subscribers on your list.

Your subscriber engagement is very important since it impacts your sender’s reputation and deliverability. If you want to have a high engagement rate (high open rate and click-through rate), you need to stay on top of list hygiene. This means suppressing inactive subscribers.

In general, the perception is that the bigger your list the more money you can make. However, this statement isn’t entirely true either. Your subscribers need to open the email to see what you offer and consider buying. I’ve had some clients who had only 20,000 subscribers and generated in $1mm revenue in one month vs clients who had 100,000 subscribers and generated around $250,000 in monthly revenue. The engagement rate in the first case was around 30% and in the other case it was closer to 5% –– a big difference.

Our first step when we start working with a new client is to create a new segment to see the subscribers engagement level. Those segments are:

[EXCLUDE] [SUPPRESS] Received 10+ email and opened zero

This is the group of subscribers who received at least 10 emails overall but engaged zero times. For engagement in this segment, we say opened email zero times overall and clicked zero times as well. Here is the snapshot of the setup in Klaviyo:


The idea of this segment is to dynamically capture all inactive subscribers and suppress/delete them on a regular basis. Typically we do it on a monthly basis but during the holiday season (such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday), we do it more often, closer to every other week. Also, we always exclude this segment from all campaigns. This way we make sure that we do not send emails to inactive subscribers. As I said before, sending emails to inactive subscribers can impact your sender’s reputation negatively.


This segment is made of the group of people who received your email and it had soft bounce at least two times. A soft bounce is when something happens, like their inbox is full or they have an autoresponder on to express being out of office. Klaviyo recommends to suppress subscribers if the email bounced 4+ times, but since the sender’s reputation is so crucial in this business, I would rather suppress few extra subscribers than risk a negative impact on the sender’s reputation.

So we are creating a segment with the following criteria:


I cannot stress enough the importance of list engagement. You need to constantly review and clean up the inactive accounts. I know it is hard to suppress/delete subscribers from your account and your number decrease, but it’s just your ego. We all want to see big growing numbers, however, in this case, it’s truly best to focus your attention growing the open rate and click-through rate.


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